I once randomly read that it can reduce stress to plan a vacation. Not necessarily make a solid plan, either — just pick a place and organize an itinerary for an imaginary (or upcoming) adventure. I think the most helpful part about this is manifesting an idea from nothing, then making arrangements that could actually fit into your schedule and budget. Cleaning, scheduling, and organizing are tricks I use to maintain a feeling of control in at least some aspects of my life. Preparing for a vacation with no real obligations, financial or otherwise, is definitely freeing in unusual ways.
Mapping out flight times is especially useful for me because I’m terrified of flying, mostly due to claustrophobia. For example, if I want to go to Japan someday, I weigh flight times from NYC against flight times from various other destinations I’d like to vacation or visit. Would I feel better flying there directly, or would I feel safer traveling to multiple places over many weeks? Or months?! It’s my fantasy vacation — I can stay anywhere as long as I want!
I manage my anxiety by developing coping strategies on flights X hours long. IRL, I try to sleep and pretend I’m a video game character progressing the time forward. I know if I take my anxiety medication or a dramamine, I’m nodding off before takeoff. I force myself to stay up until we’re airborne, use the bathroom once ASAP, then throw on headphones and my sunglasses before the inevitable 5-hour sitting-up sleep. Yes, I do wear the sunglasses on planes any time of the day (time is irrelevant when you’re crossing zones anyway!) so I can feign being fabulous whilst my neck is bent in an unholy position and drool is more-than-likely visibly pouring onto my embarrassing neck pillow. Disturb if you dare.
It is kind of a bummer wanting to utilize plane time for reading, music, and movies, but never actually physically being able to do it because of motion sickness or claustrophobia. I take the meds so I can enjoy the flight, but I always pass out until about the last ninety minutes and then get ants-in-my-pants and can’t focus on anything but landing. Ideally, it would be nice to break up long flights with books, movies, naps, and snacks, but my ubiquitous terror is very happy to disassociate into an alternative universe until I can kiss the ground once more.
Considering flight times also opens up potential new areas I’d like to explore. Maybe I don’t want to stay in Japan for my whole trip. Maybe I want to bounce around Asia, or fly to The UK before going home to NYC. I’m working up the courage to visit my partner’s family in Australia, so maybe those smaller, “practice” flights will help me acclimate to arduous international travel. Right now a 20+-total-hour flight is a hard NO. I am le scared.
Someday, though, when I’m less afraid of things. I’ll get over my fear of flying there, then the impending doom surrounding the travel home. Because it’s never just the flight there, you still have to get back! I would probably be like, I made it 20 hours to Australia. I’m not traveling on a plane again for basically a whole day though, sooo… I guess I live here now, bye. *Cries in generalized anxiety disorder.* I don’t even want to live in Australia, probably. I won’t ever know because I am too busy typing this safely from my grounded bed and complaining about everything. Wasn’t this supposed to be reducing my stress?!
Even though I am an infinitely wealthy and worldly tourist in my illusions, it’s still helpful for me to calculate the costs. Then I have an approximate of how much funding I’d need; therefore, I know how much I need to save. Back to my organizing obsession, knowing a total costs makes it easier to figure out how much to budget and how long to stash cash for the day I decide to make that vacation a reality. 🙂
When I’m actually going on holiday, I bookmark vegan and vegetarian restaurant guides near my hotel beforehand. You could even go so far as to do that for an imaginary vacation, too. I’m not quite fond of this myself, because it just leaves me longing. Travel plans are always tentative in my opinion, especially when you’re prone to chickening out like me. My gluttonous nature sees a route of booze and well-rated, vegetarian-forward cuisine as my ultimate goal. It takes a lot of care and work finding good spots in new places that appease everyone and meet dietary restrictions, so the effort to do that isn’t worth much if I know I can’t get there for years. Also, what if that restaurant isn’t there anymore when I go? What if I’m hungry now?! *Opens Seamless again.*
I’ve always wanted to go to Japan, so I’d say that’s my ultimate travel goal. All of my friends who have visited loved it. I’m sure I would, too, but it isn’t the highest priority because I know I really need to put in the work to overcome my personal boundaries. I can handle flying and even entertainment, but that claustrophobia is a monster that is definitely exacerbated in a tiny seat, locked in a cabin with a lot of other people, in the sky, with nowhere to go… Other close-quarter situations that give me heart palpitations are cars in traffic, trains stuck in tunnels in-between stops, getting my eyebrows threaded, and the dentist ugh.
I am proud to say that with breathing exercises, medication management, and confrontational approaches, I handle all of these things with far fewer freak-outs than in the past. That’s why they invented those pills, right? Yay modern science! Still doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love to be in a place where I don’t need to do that just to get from A to B. Progress, not perfection.
Since Americans are effectively banned from entering everywhere else, and I’m not thrilled about COVID-related restrictions anyway, I’ll stick to the imaginary vacation planning and mental preparation for a while. At least that gives me longer to save money and plot my in-depth emotional-safety schemes. Perhaps I will even execute it all and become a bright-eyed traveling blogger plagued by the privilege of wanderlust. Or, you know, stay indoors forever where nothing can get me.
I know it seems weird to be cripplingly claustro about certain things, while feeling safe and comfortable staying at home for many days in a row. Having a balcony definitely helps, and even I go for a walk outdoors sometimes, believe it or not. Honestly, home only feels constricting when it’s cluttered, so picking up keeps the anxiety at bay, too. Either way, emotional disorders never quite work logically, in my experience.
BRB, planning my imaginary girls-only birthday trip to Ibiza. 🥲